The name Toni Wilson is synonymous with the Ovens and Murray League.
But that's far from where her netball story began.
While she helped establish the region's major netball competition and led Wangaratta Rovers, she first contended with a series of unfortunate events as a player.
It all began at her home club Tarrawingee.
"The first year I missed the grand final as a kid because I had the German Measles," she recalled.
"The year after that I tripped over and did the ligaments in my knee on the eve of the Thursday night training before the grand final.
"The following year I missed another grand final because I did the ligaments in my ankle.
"It was really sad."
Growing up in Tarrawingee with eight younger siblings, Wilson developed a passion for netball at an early age.
However, unlike today, the game wasn't as easily accessible for 12-year-olds.
"In those days they didn't have junior netball and you weren't really allowed to play until you got to 14," she said.
"I went to training at Tarrawingee one day and they asked me if I could play the rest of the year.
"I didn't think about being young, just the fact that I could play every week was great."
Sport was always a priority for her family.
Her brother Mick Nolan helped North Melbourne to its first premiership, while her father Pete was president of the Ovens and King league for many years.
Economics and politics emerged as interests for Wilson as she set off for Melbourne to attend university.
It was there that she crossed paths with former Australian netball coach Lorna McConchie while representing the Uni Blues.
"That was a really good experience," she said.
"She (McConchie) trained the uni teams the same as the Australian teams."
After later spending four years in Mildura with her husband Chas, the family found their way back to Tarrawingee, building the house they still call home.
Wilson took on the job as coach with the Bulldogs, as one by one her sons Mick, Joe and Andrew left the club to join the Rovers in the Ovens and Murray League.
"Within three or four years they were all playing seniors there," Wilson said.
"I thought I had never really watched the boys play a lot of football, so I went in."
This becomes the turning point in the story, as talk of an O and M netball competition was brewing in 1992.
A meeting was called at Wodonga's Stump Hotel to set the wheels in motion.
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Having previously been president of the Ovens and King Netball Association, Wilson was asked to represent Rovers at the meeting.
"Some clubs sent along token blokes, while other clubs were really enthusiastic," she said.
"Sandy Thomas, who was the secretary at the time, asked me if I would convene the first meeting, and that's how I got involved."
It was just the start of the work to come to integrate netball into the league.
"There was absolutely nothing, no constitution and no by-laws," Wilson said.
"I was still friendly with the girls in the Ovens and King League, so I got hold of their constitution and tried to get help from Netball Victoria.
"I knew if the clubs were well organised, the association would run itself well.
"The competition started in 1993, so it was a quick process, but that first year was really hard."
With the foundations set, the next phase was working out where games would be played.
"I had really good support from Sandy Thomas and Graham Bulgin, and I said to them, unless you are strong on getting the netball played within the confines of the football area, it will never succeed," she said.
"They told clubs that they had to get courts within three years.
"The first grand final was played at J.C King Park and then we went back to Lavington.
"Because I wanted the netball to be accepted as part of the league, I asked Sandy and Graham if we could do the presentation at half time of the football.
"All of the netballers went back to the ground and it was really good.
"It was just a way to let people know that we had started, and that really helped us to be accepted."
Wilson took to the helm of Rovers for the first few seasons and helped the side to back-to-back A-grade premierships.
While she was at the helm as the league's netball president, she's the first to admit she didn't do it alone, with many people supporting her along the way.
"There were so many good people right from the start," she said.
While the foundations for the competition have stayed the same, umpiring is an aspect that has evolved over time.
"When we first started the clubs had to provide an umpire for each match," she said.
"It was then thought to start up an independent umpires group.
"Kath Dobson had moved to Albury and we asked her to come on board and take over the umpires portfolio and she set it up brilliantly.
"It's just gone from strength to strength."
Wilson now enjoys going to the league's games as a spectator and grandmother, with three of her six grandchildren, Brylee, Kelsie and Darcy, donning Rovers' colours.
She cherishes presenting Kelsie with best on court after the Hawks claimed the under-16s flag in 2019.
Wilson has had plenty of practice handing out medals, with the league's highest netball merit in her name.
"That's such an honour," she said.
After years of dedication to netball, she now finds herself a life member of Tarrawingee, Wangaratta Rovers, the Ovens and King league, and of course, the Ovens and Murray league.
"I'm very lucky I was able to help and see it develop," she said.
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